The Old Schoolhouse
THE LITTLE OLD SCHOOLHOUSE
(THE BOWMAN BALL BUSTER 05) (EVENT 2)
The tumultuous thunderstorms that clattered and clanged their way through Athens all week sounded like the bloated bellowing of a hundred Wizards of Oz announcing their omnipotence, the crapulous caterwauling of a thousand Tyler Hamiltons declaiming their innocence. Now, all three of the above are only a faded memory:
(1) these rancorous storms were finally blown eastward by gale force busters that cleared the skies for Saturday’s WBL event; (2) the Wizard was exposed when the curtains were pulled back; and (3) blood tests showed Tyler wasn’t actually a human; turns out he’s a vampire with goat’s blood pumping through his veins. All three of the above were kicked out of the WBL permanently and by unanimous consent: Good riddance to all! Here in the South, we eat goats; we don’t ride with them!
The second event of WBL 2005, The Bowman Ball Buster – a four-hour, 80 mile jaunt – carved a jagged stitch east deep into the darkness of Oglethorpe and Elbert Counties. Many Zealots left their backs unguarded for the day’s event; they were overcome with a false feeling of security. On this day, they would pay dearly. Seems many Zealots assumed that because all the day’s denizens received 2-points and 2-points only for the day’s event (there were no sprints, no Attack Zone); and because Drewdini was safely ensconced in Yellow (as long as he signed in), worries could be dropped by the roadside with the same ease that Ye Ole Fat Bastard, Jon Green, dropped his drawers in public. But Zealots should never forget the ominous warning given to a mountaineer before descending Everest: “Don’t let your guard down; keep your eyes on the prize. Because as soon as the forgetting sets in, the floor falls away, and your two feet are twisting and twitching ever so slightly two inches from the ground. You’re hung by the neck.”
Seventy-five Zealots signed in and collected their 2-points for the Bowman event. But Drewdini, the current Yellow jersey holder, overslept. He called registration from the road, said he was en route and would be five minutes late. He asked the Sergeant at Arms, military man Gregor Samsa Sommerville, to delay the starting whistle. But Gregor Samsa is actually a roach. Franz Kafka tried to warn us. Naturally, registration was closed immediately, and the pack blasted out of town five minutes early heading east. The only message left behind for poor Drewdini was: “Head west, young man?” The old maxim of Borges was proven true once again: “As with all men and Zealots alike, it is their lot to live in bad times.”
Sadly, Drewdini took the bait and lost the jersey. For the first time in the history of the WBL, there was a forty-way tie for first with forty Zealots tallying a total of four points on the year. The tie would last another three hours, until Watson Mill Bridge. At the bridge, one would step forward by falling behind. Some of the Zealots on hand and now tied for first were: former child porn star Boy Brian Bibens, Big Daddy John Dowd, Mike Colwell Banker, Her Ladyship Erin Winter, T. Largemouth Bass, Brad Shake Your Moneymaker Bowman, Doctor Maggie Shirley, Michel Mayberietta Lamar, Bill Harper’s Bazaar, Brady My Man Rogers, Chad Mad Max Madan, Mathew Gentry-fied, Gregor Samsa Sommerville, Craig Smitty Smith, Len Rock the Slote and the irrepressible Spaniard Rhino Ryan Barnett. Announcements were waved because the Yellow jersey was en route, and the groupetto sped out of town by way of the backdoor. Jim Morrison ain’t the only one who eats pork and beans around these parts. (“The men don’t know but the little girls understand.” Translation: You may not know what on God’s green earth we are talking about, but don’t worry about it, you’re girlfriends do; and they’ll continue to leave the backdoor open for all Board members, unless they’re Canadian. (See and hear “The Best of the Doors, track 7, “Backdoor Man.”).)
The feisty Zealots cruised en bloc to Colbert, zigged and zagged their way through Madison County, sailed over the swollen banks of the Broad River, and rolled their humps across the lumps and bumps of the undulate countryside of Elbert County. The last 15 miles into Bowman, with the wind perfectly positioned at the rear of the peloton, some of the hopefuls and dreamers couldn’t help but show their hand. Boy Brian Bibens, Page Boy Todd Henrikson and the Strutting Reid Peacock went to the front and pressed down on the accelerator. It was the first taste of real speed the pack had experienced so far in WBL 2005. The excitement spread through the group like a white-hot contagion; junkies for speed throttling down the runway at a breakneck pace. These guys and gals were having a blast. They all wore gaping smiles on their faces. But the wind, like a capricious boss, has been known to deceive: As long as the cash is flowing in as easy as sugar pouring from a box, as long as the wind is at your back, everything is jelly and jam; but as soon as the sugar flow stops, and the wind shifts and smacks you square in the face, you might just be cut loose from the group and left to fend for yourself.
The pack refueled in Bowman, jumped on their steeds, and sailed out of the store. The wind was still at their backs, at least for a moment. The pack began to arc back towards Athens by way of the historic Nickville Road. The beguiling wind, at first a friend, was now slamming into them face-first. Presently, the sun hid itself behind a thick, low-lying blanket of dark velvety clouds. The temperature dropped like a bowling ball off a tabletop. Conditions were going from good to great! These steel-coated Zealots put their heads down and pounded away: pedal stroke after pedal stroke after pedal stroke; onward they pushed into the wind; pushing and driving and clawing and scratching and always headfirst into a hammering wind. The Zealots were relentless. They were paying a visit to the old school. (Take your hats off, please.)
The Zealots continued to push homeward as they sped through Carlton and cut a trail for Watson Mill Bridge. And always, the implacable, incessant, unstoppable and irrepressible wind continued to batter and pound the pack from the front. This was man v. the elements: pack against the wind. Suddenly, three hours into the four-hour event, legs began to burn like they’d been filled with hot mustard. And the wind just kept on hammering. Maggie Shirley and Erin Winter ad Doc Moye and Gregor Samsa and Bassmaster and Mayberietta Lamar and Mr. Bowman himself continued to push forward. Outer layers of self were blown hither and dither; only the true inner-Zealot remained, exposed for all to see. It was make-or-break time in the WBL. And it was only the second event of the year. Pray for the Zealots of WBL 2005.
But these were the Zealots with the iron clad determination and the oak-solid drive. They rode in a magnificent and efficient double-paceline, all locking into battle positions and holding their ground; like the wildebeest, survival meant hanging onto the group.
As the pack crossed the rough and tumble slatted boards of the Watson Mill Covered Bridge, disaster struck for Gutcheck Gruber. Two miles before the bridge, Former Yellow jersey winner Jeff Shirey-mania slowed to wait on others who’d been cast adrift. He’d intended to tow the hapless souls back to the group. There were 20 miles to go. When word filtered to the front that Shirey-mania, a Yellow jersey contender for WBL 2005, was in arrears, Gutcheck went to the front, and like Lance in last year’s Tour when crossing the cobbles, slapped his chain on the big ring in the front, and the small one in the back, and pressed down on the pedals as hard as he could. But as Gruber crossed the bridge, the spinning wheel of fate stopped on a nail, and Gruber promptly flatted. There was no follow vehicle. And as Canada Dave rode passed he Gruber he smiled and said, “Welcome to the old school son.” He and the others hammered away.
Gruber knew Shirey and Company were coming; he knew he had to act quick. He stripped his tire from the rim, snatched out the tube, pulled his new tube out of his pocket, ran the tube over the rim and inside of the tire, pulled the tire onto the rim and began to pump. Two minutes had passed. Shirey and his boys came sailing by after forty pumps, increasing their tempo by two knots when they caught a glimpse of Gruber. Shirey whispered to his comrades, “Bury him now!” He then turned to Gruber and yelled, “Turn left when you see a cow!”
Shirey blazed by, not allowing Gruber to latch on. Gruber threw his wheel on his bike and set off in pursuit. He was two-minutes down. Gruber, formerly thought to be an intellectual, did take the left at the cow. Unfortunately, he kept taking lefts at every cow he happened upon afterwards. Gruber rode in a square for over 100 miles and six hours. The rest of the Zealots, lead by Canada Dave, laughed so hard their toes hurt. Gruber, a potential Yellow jersey winner had been eliminated. Borges statement kept proving itself true.
Shirey and his mates caught back on, and held on for the rest of the way home. There was no sprint, but the Zealots couldn’t have sprinted anyway – they were laughing to hard about Gruber and his cows. As the pack rolled into town, each was on fire, heated with the fever and excitement one feels from being alive at the end of an arduous day in the saddle. The group had paid a visit to the old school this day.
But the Board had one last card to play. When word filtered in that Gruber had done 100 miles and six hours, and that figure was certified by a licensed mileageagropher, Gruber was awarded an extra point, giving him 3 on the day. With his 2 points from the previous week, Gutcheck catapulted all by his lonesome into Yellow with a total tally of 5. Gruber, in a weary, bleary-eyed statement said, “This is the happiest day of my life. My cycling career has been devoted to this seemingly unattainable goal, and from the dreary fog of exhaustion of some previous career, I emerge now into a new era, [sic].” At press time, Canada Dave and the other contenders were sick from news of recent developments. They had “no comment to make.”